Palermo Renaissance Part 3: Strengthening Municipal Services, 1993-2000

In 1993, Palermo, Italy, mayor Leoluca Orlando took charge of city services that were on the verge of collapse. Garbage and trash lined the streets of the city. Natural gas for cooking and heating was available only intermittently, and public buses rarely ran on time. The municipality rationed water during the day. The city’s four municipal companies for waste disposal, natural gas delivery, public transportation, and water had deteriorated during decades of mismanagement and corruption. The Mafia’s hold over the companies’ public works and procurement contracts contributed to massive waste of tax money and other resources. But Palermo’s fortunes began to turn at the beginning of a seven-year period known as Palermo’s Renaissance (1993–2000). Orlando hired competent managers and gave them broad leeway to root out corruption and fix operations and finances. Under the new managers, the companies expelled Mafia-linked companies from contracts, implemented stronger control and supervision procedures, and sharply improved the quality of service for Palermo’s citizens and businesses. Although public transportation and garbage collection services slipped when Orlando left office in 2000, Palermo’s upgraded gas and water systems continued to serve the entire city. This case study recounts Orlando’s efforts to rebuild municipal companies and improve the provision of public services.
Rushda Majeed and Laura Bacon drafted this case study based on interviews conducted in Palermo, Italy, in March 2012. Aldo Civico, assistant professor in the department of sociology and anthropology at Rutgers University and cofounder of the International Institute for Peace, provided initial ideas and guidance on the cases. Roberto Pitea, Valentina Burcheri, and Brian Reilly provided research assistance. Case published November 2012.
Two companion case studies address simultaneous reform efforts in Palermo from 1993 to 2000. “Renaissance in Palermo, Italy, Part 1: Rebuilding Civic Identity and Reclaiming a City from the Mafia in Italy,” details the restoration of public spaces, arts and culture, tourism, and schools. “Renaissance in Palermo, Italy, Part 2: Reforming City Hall,” focuses on the city’s budget, taxes, one-stop shop for licenses and documents, and citizen outreach.
Cosa Nostra
public service exam
business licensing
one-stop shop
waste management
Leoluca Orlando
Focus Area(s)
City Management
Civil Service
Containing Patronage Pressures
Countering Criminal Economies
Getting the News Out/Managing Expectations
Critical Tasks
Building citizen support
Civil service corruption
Civil service recruitment
Extending services to insecure or remote areas
Making services accessible
Municipal centers of government
Overcoming corruption
Performance management system
Public service delivery
Revenue generation
Core Challenge
Principal-agent problem (delegation)
Country of Reform
Case Studies
Rushda Majeed and Laura Bacon